While browsing books at my favorite Target store (a section that I always seem to end up in even when I don’t plan to) I saw a copy of An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor. I read the back and thought, “Oh, a bit like James Herriot”. Which meant of course that I had to buy it.
It’s the 1960s, The Beatles haircuts are mentioned as well as a new band called the Rolling Stones and Barry Laverty is fresh out of medical school. The young doctor is on his way to the village of Ballybucklebo in Northern Ireland (fictional, in case you were wondering) to apply to be the assistant to Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly. Barry wants to get a taste of general practice in a small village before he decides if he wants to specialize or not. Ballybucklebo, it turns out, is the perfect place to get his feet wet.
Barry first meets Dr. O’Reilly as he unceremoniously chunks a patient out his door and into the rose bushes. This just happens to be an act that Barry vehemently disagrees with but since the good doctor’s reason is believable enough Barry decides to stay and give him a chance. More than once do Barry and Dr. O’Reilly butt heads over a patient. It’s a case of Barry learning that what you know from university isn’t all you need to be a doctor. Between learning general practice and getting to know the village Barry finds time to fall in a love and get a little fishing done.
There are some really great characters here, some more stereotypical than others, but all lovable. Dr. O’Reilly seems mean and gruff at first but he is quickly given some depth with a history in the war and a lost love. He’s rough but has a heart of gold, which comes through in his care for the patients. Then we’ve got the town drunk who still manages to be endearing, the big man who owns half the town and lords it over the rest, the local odd-ball with cats, the housekeeper who makes sure the doctor’s eat, and a the new guy on the block. It sounds routine but Patrick Taylor brings them to life with attention to dialect (there's a glossary of terms in the back) as well as details of country life and doctor.